Rap, when it began, spoke about the injustice happening in society. A key crux of hip hop has been how they have represented the marginalised in terms of racism or identity crisis. In India too, there is a lot of hate, racism and injustice to make music about, and one artist from Sikkim is doing the same.
He has been creating quite a buzz with his lyrics, which speak mostly about the representation of those with Mongoloid features in India. Ugen Namgyal Bhutia aka UNB is a rapper who has been speaking about racism in India meted against Northeast Indians and also against the Indian Nepalese community.
UNB released his ‘Made in India‘ EP in April 2020. Made in India, with 5 tracks, was his first Hindi project with songs like Hum Bhi Kya Kam Hai, Made in China, Jal Barse, On Point and Dhoti, the only Nepali track. However, following his EP release, UNB has been unable to perform in gigs due to the COVID 19 pandemic. But he has again turned adversity into an opportunity by releasing as many as 10 singles since April 2020.
Speaking with EastMojo, Bhutia shares, “The whole EP Made in India revolves around the message of identity crisis which I have felt personally. Hum Bhi Kya Kam Hai – is about how ‘we are not less than anyone’. Made in China speaks about how we are not people from China. The whole EP is about how we are part of India, hence the name Made in India. ‘Jal Barse’ talks about me being an Indian Nepali and how we deal with the racism that follows. ‘On Point’ is a bit different in its perspective. Dhoti was in Nepali, where I had targeted the Nepali audience. In the song, I say that as an Indian Nepali, we are culturally in tune with Nepal. But people from Nepal don’t accept me as a Nepali, either because I am singing in Hindi or I belong to India. People called me Dhoti for being an Indian, so to counter that racist judgement, I wrote the song.”
Talking about the lockdown, UNB says, “The whole lockdown last year, I was focused and creative, so I released a track every month. Not just a track but with music videos. I released singles like Chogyal which was about the competition in Hip Hop. Other songs like Noor, Timro Kura are love songs, and there are more like Dami Dami and Paribhasha released a month ago. It’s a definition of success and how it is a different definition for everyone.”
UNB has his record label Kauso Records, but almost all his songs are recorded in his home with or without the pandemic-induced lockdown. “I have always produced my tracks in my room, even before the lockdown. I was making music in my studio. I have never been to a professional studio to record music. It didn’t impact my production, but I was affected more with live shows getting cancelled before and in between the lockdown. In between when the pandemic eased, I had done a few shows in Hyderabad and Bangalore. In terms of performance, it did affect me as it is the main source of income. Other artists everywhere were impacted. Now, as a full-time musician, the only revenue generated is through the stream on music sites. The lack of gigs did impact me a lot”, shares UNB.
UNB’s timeline shows that he releases 10-12 songs a year, which is like a song every month. “I was productive in lockdown but momentum was the same. The creative space was good during the lockdown, in the last lockdown. But this lockdown I am having a bit of writer’s block. I have not uploaded a song in May. I try my best to release a song with a music video but that doesn’t happen every time. I had to drop a few videos recently, but they will be backed by lyrical videos and not merely audio”, he shares.
Apart from a few love songs, all of UNB’s songs revolve around racism. “That is my main goal to represent and let people know who we are. So many artists have come and made big, but I don’t think they emphasized on racism, maybe it was not their taste or not abiding as per their genre. They didn’t make it a priority, but my priority is to let non-Nepali speakers know, there are Nepalese communities who are Indians. People who look like me from the North East, need to be represented properly. That is what I am contributing to, music has to play a bigger role. Government and laws will reach to a certain extent but music connects more and has a bigger role to play,” he adds.